, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 11-19
Date: 02 Mar 2005

Flood regime, dam regulation and fish in the Upper Paraná River: effects on assemblage attributes, reproduction and recruitment

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The flood regime is the most important force determining seasonality in neotropical rivers. In the Upper Paran River floodplain, it is the primary factor influencing biological processes. The aim of this paper is to summarize information on the influence of dam-controlled floods on some fish assemblage attributes, reproduction and recruitment in the Upper Paran River floodplain, providing preliminary guidelines for dam operation upstream. Fish were collected in different habitats of the Upper Paran River floodplain (river, channels and lagoons) in the period from 1986 to 2001. The high water period in the Paran River usually occurs from November/December to April/May. Annual variation in the hydrograph affects species with distinct life history strategies differently, and influences the composition and structure of fish assemblages. Large floods were associated with higher species richness. Frequencies of individuals with ripe and partially spent gonads, which indicate spawning, were higher during the period of increasing water level. Dependence on floods seems to be lowest in sedentary species that develop parental care, and highest in large migratory species that spawn in the upper stretches of the basin and use flooded areas as nurseries. Migratory fishes were favored by annual floods that lasted more than 75 days, with longer floods yielding larger populations. The occurrence of high water levels at the beginning of summer is fundamental to the spawning success of migratory species. However, the flood may be less important for recruitment of juveniles if it is of short duration. Dam operation upstream (releasing more water during the raining season) has potential to promote greater floods with appropriate duration improving recruitment, particularly for migratory species.